Monthly Archives: January 2015

Woman: ‘I Want To Rent An Apartment.’ Airbnb: ‘Sorry, You Don’t Have Enough Social Media Contacts.’

Here's a Ferrari from the 1950s. Would you jump through hoops just to get on a list of people who want to own it? One look at the car and that seems a very sensible approach.
A Ferrari from the early 1950s. For their brand new, low-volume cars you have to jump through hoops just to get on a list of people who want to own one. It’s not easy to qualify.


Imagine your Airbnb  booking being knocked back because you don’t have enough friends on Facebook.

Something like that happened last year.

A mother with a top credit history was turned down.

To be fair,  Airbnb didn’t literally say ‘you don’t have enough social media contacts’, but the woman in questions claims it amounted to that.

So welcome to the new status.

It has nothing to do with your bank account.

It’s not contingent on an Ivy League education or say, the fact you may be a director of a powerful Wall Street firm.

The algorithms don’t care.

They just look for one thing. They want to know if you’re connected socially.

Are you linked to the point where people will be influenced by your choice? Will hordes follow you?

It looks like a new expression of online promotion is at work here for Airbnb.

Imagine being able to handpick your customers.

You decide who is worthy to use your service or own your product. You choose who represents your brand.

Airbnb appears to be in that rarefied position. They share that with Ferrari.

It’s tough to buy one of their low-volume cars if you’re not known to the company. Maybe it’s even impossible.

To get on the Ferrari waiting list for a car that’s one of just 400 you have to exert yourself.

You’ll have to attend Ferrari events like promotions, car shows, track days, Formula 1 races or be a current owner.

You’ll have to be known to the company.

Even then it’s difficult. If a Ferrari Dino is in your garage, that may not get you very far.

For many it’s not enough of a Ferrari as it’s a relatively low-cost offering meant for a wider market.

Not only do you have to possess the wherewithal, but you will have to demonstrate value to the company.

In short you have to be worthy of owning a Ferrari.

It’s a bit like CRM. But in reverse.

Meanwhile, if Airbnb doesn’t come through with a booking there’s always Craigslist.

And for a mode of transport more exotic than a low-volume Ferrari, try India.

They’ve had a spacecraft orbiting Mars since September 2014.

If all goes well they could be looking for spaceflight passengers in the not too distant future.

Share with us. Leave your comments in the box below Thanks for reading Regards, Steve Ulin. LinkedIn:









Gorilla Glue, Where Are You? When You’re Needed Most.

The cleaner that broke the beard off this 3,300 year-old priceless Egyptian artifact should have had Gorilla Glue. We all should, actually, for all those tchotchkes in our own homes that are in the habit of breaking.
Downcast, shattered  and unhappy in the extreme … that describes museum staff when a  cleaner  broke the beard off this 3,300 year-old priceless Egyptian artifact. But think about it … doesn’t super glue also mend broken hearts?  Maybe that could have been the message for say, Gorilla Glue in a timely online ad.

Where’s Gorilla Glue?

Where are the rest of the super glue brands?

We’re not talking about stock on a store shelf; we’re referring to an online presence.

We’re talking about timely ads here.

Where’s the online creative work for Gorilla Glue showcasing it with King Tut’s solid gold funerary mask?

The one that was recently broken by a cleaner. As you probably know, the beard snapped off.

An accident like that becomes less of a worry when you have super glue handy, right?

The chipped-off beard is a communications opportunity.

So why not run an ad?

Why not remind people that super glue is terrific for mending the odd three thousand-year-old solid gold Egyptian artifact you might have lying around the house.

Short of that application, it’s also good for gluing a kid’s flapping shoe sole back on to the shoe.

Many ads these days, as they say, are enough to give an aspirin a headache. They’re dull at best.

But timely ads can change peoples’ minds about advertising. They’re accepted, they penetrate.

Amazing how those who spend their life purposely ignoring bland communications perk up when your messaging is timely.

Some ad curmudgeons have actually been known to smile.

Why? An instant connection is made with something in their frame of reference.

It all comes back to one of the most effective rules in marketing and advertising.

Don’t cook up an advertising solution in your boardroom, find it in your prospect’s mind.

Do you remember this?  ‘You can still dunk in the dark?’

It was the Oreo Tweet about the Super Bowl XLVII blackout.

It’s timely, memorable and pretty brilliant.

A nice catch … better than any on the field.

To do this sort of work, take a leaf from the great London agency, Collett Dickenson & Pearce.

Before starting work each day creative teams combed the news media for stories that might link to any of the agency’s brands.

It became standard procedure, I’m told.

Well, after all, shouldn’t you be thinking on behalf of your clients 24 hours a day?

The Collets teams didn’t find something everyday.

But when they did you got the kind of impact money can’t buy.

Share with us. Tell us, how do you go about finding solutions to your marketing and advertising problems in your customers’ minds? Thanks for reading Why Be Tonto. Regards, Steve Ulin LinkedIn:




Fashion: Intelligence and Wrinkles Are Now Chic.

The ability to go against the flow. To chuck out the rulebook to gain attention. No doubt that's behind the choice of novelist Joan Didion as the face of French fashion house, Céline. Joan Didion is 80 but  timeless qualities as a thinker and a writer make her a stunning choice. Photo by Juergen Teller.
The ability to go against the flow. To chuck out the rulebook to gain attention. No doubt that’s behind the choice of novelist Joan Didion as the face of French fashion house, Céline. Joan Didion is 80 but timeless qualities as a thinker and a writer make her a stunning choice. Photo by Juergen Teller.


She could have been the perfect choice to front a Paris fashion house ad campaign.

She would have been just right as the icon of a special clothing line.

But she was from another time, born in 1775 and died in 1817.

That’s the novelist Jane Austen.

She had something that went deeper than beauty or chic. A brilliant mind.

She would have added wit, insight, perception and shrewdness to the flighty world of fashion.

Jane Austen was a woman of substance, a personality counter to the image of willowy teens in six-inch heels parading down runways to Hip-Hop.

She would have appealed to an older, sophisticated target audience.

The author of Pride and Prejudice is nothing if not a model for independence of mind, judgment and intelligence for women. Or, for that matter, anyone.

As you no doubt know, her books are read today with enduring appreciation.

Put that down to the fact that her insight into human nature is timeless.

Move along 100 years or so and you have another who could have been the face of a Paris fashion house.

The novelist Virginia Woolf.

Again, hers was another time, 1882-1941.

With an incisive mind, an unrelenting power of observation, dry humor and narrative ability she would have embodied independence, intelligence, imagination, and creativity as the iconic image of a fashion house.

Books like To the Lighthouse, A Room of One’s Own and The Waves support that.

But all this aside, wouldn’t it be folly to get a novelist to become the image of a fashion house?

It’s never been done before so it could never happen, right?

But as it did happen a few days ago in Paris, you have to give full marks to the creative director of the upmarket French fashion house, Céline.

She’s called Phoebe Philo.

She went off script in a big way to choose the novelist Joan Didion as the face of the brand.

The author of The White Album and The Year of Magical Thinking has Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf qualities.

Intelligence and perceptiveness being chief among them.

No doubt that made Phoebe Philo rethink what women of a certain age truly value.

Here’s betting she looked hard at the youth-oriented nature of fashion and the Céline line from a telling angle. Her customers’ viewpoint.

We’re talking about affluent women here, women in their fifties.

Then she acted by consigning the marketing rulebook to the dustbin and going with a surprising choice.

The Céline target market must be delighted with the Joan Didion image.

Well-off, middle age women suddenly have an edginess, a cool all their own; they gain when it comes to a new image of chic.

But to up the stakes even more you have Joan Didion’s age.

She’s 80.

Others like Dolce & Gabbana have used older models, but without the one thing that sets Céline apart. Brain power.

All this allows Phoebe Philo to add something new to her resume. ‘Rule breaker in the extreme.’

Let’s hope she sells a zillion.

Meanwhile, there’s so much lip service paid to ideas like ‘when other marketers zig, you zag, when they shout, you whisper’.

How many actually adopt this approach?

On the subject of differentiating your brand, a Jane Austen quote leaves you with a thought Phoebe Philo knows well:

 One man’s style must not be the rule of another’s.

Share with us. What does it take to think in a different way? Can it be learned? Which marketing companies have it? Which don’t? Leave your comment below. Thanks for reading Regards, Steve Ulin LinkedIn:


Appearing On A Wall Near You. If You’re Lucky.

The guerrilla street artist Banksy was here. Besides street art he once did a 3-day exhibition in LA featuring a life elephant in a room painted in a pink and gold wallpaper pattern.
The guerrilla street artist Banksy created this social and political commentary. Besides street art he once did an exhibition in LA featuring a live elephant in a room covered in a pink and gold wallpaper pattern.

It takes you by surprise. It engages you.

You’re drawn in.

It encourages you to inch forward with a growing curiosity.

It could make you smile and say ‘that’s terrific’ or maybe you’ll just say ‘wow’ .

It can be shocking,  funny,  militant, political.

It’s a Banksy artwork you suddenly discover on a wall in a public place.

As you probably know, a ‘Banksy’ is the work of the street artist who has kept his real identity under wraps .

His art is created with stencils so it can be executed quickly. Without the cops noticing. And without the artist being thrown in the clink.

So when you come upon it, it has something of the wonder of a crop circle that mysteriously appears in a farmer’s field.

Where did it come from, who put it there? Both questions occupy your mind.

The stencil quality gives the work an unmistakeable look with messaging that’s anti-war, anti-capitalist and anti-boring.

London, New York, Melbourne, the Palestinian territories, Disneyland …

Banksy’s work has popped up in more than a few places.

A frequent question about Banky's work is 'what's the price?' A few years back a piece sold for 288,000 Pounds Sterling. Small beer, really. Because a recently an Andy Warhol Coke bottle painting went for $57.3 million.
A frequently asked question about Banksy’s work is ‘what’s it worth?’ A few years back a piece sold for something like $437,000. Recently an Andy Warhol Coke bottle painting fetched $57.3 million.

As to the Disney visit, Banksy dressed an inflatable doll in an orange jump suit like a Guantanamo Bay prisoner.

He placed it in the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Ride to confront  those innocently enjoying the fun of Disney.

The penguin colony at London Zoo was another  target. He jumped the barrier and painted ‘We’re bored of fish’ in big letters.

Banksy’s wall spaces don’t just reflect the events of our times, you could say they  become part of them.

Each piece gives you the feeling you’re experiencing something new and different.

Which is why marketers might want to take note.

Banksy shows you how to get attention and make your messaging memorable.

Once you encounter a Banksy you don’t forget it.

After all, the surprise of running into one is a moving and emotional experience.

Of all the mediums available to marketers, outdoor ads rate high when it comes to surprising people.

This LEGO image should stick with you and take up permanent residence in your memory. In a fact-based world this little bit of whimsy is welcome, isn't it?
This LEGO image should stick with you and take up permanent residence in your memory. In a world of data-based marketing this little bit of whimsy is welcome, wouldn’t you say?

No doubt you’ve seen strong outdoor work, like the LEGO crane pictured here.

The thing is, ad agency creatives could do more to bring greater surprise value to other channels.

Like video, web, Intranet, social media, emails, mobile, commercials, print, newsletters, blogs, trade shows and more.

Content could also stand improvement as there’s more than a bit of boredom online. Have you noticed?

Each medium has its opportunities when it comes to going beyond predictable solutions to stop people.

So then, how do we ensure creative work is the opposite of a yawn? How do we develop it to go beyond safe options that are often drab, inert and expected?

To encourage your agency to think further here are two words … as Banksy might have written them.

‘_____  ____________’.

They’re in invisible ink. But seen in the right light the message becomes clear.

‘Be Surprising.’

Share with us. Tell us how you go about creating better work. The kind of messaging that can stop people and lead to the moment someone buys. Leave your comment below. Thanks for reading, Steve Ulin







Risk. If Only We Could Remove It From Business.

Risk? It's risky to run run content that's drab and wearily familiar. That's messaging that's dead on arrival as it hits the screen.
Risk? It’s risky to run content that’s conformist, dull and wearily familiar. Who’ll take an interest in that?  Wouldn’t it be better to do the unexpected and pull it off with effortless style?

Success is bound to go out the window when your marketing content is nothing special.

‘Meh’ is the response you can expect from your customers and prospects.

Because if your messaging is obligated to protocols, rules and proprieties, people aren’t exactly quick to respond.

Maybe because they’ve seen it all before.

Isn’t that true for you, personally?

As a consumer don’t you find yourself loosing interest when a brand’s content is indifferent?

Which is why marketers worried about their problems should also worry about their solutions.

You can gain a lot by looking back on what you’ve done. ‘Was that the best possible solution? Really?’

Facebook went through the post mortem thing and ditched their ‘Chairs’ commercial.

They got rid of this corporate spot as it was judged wanting. People found it confusing. Or hated it.

Many just laughed at it as this parody shows.

Home Depot had second thoughts, as well.

One of their tweets came back to bite them in the arse.

It was the ‘Which Drummer is Not Like the Others’ message.

Ill-advised and dumb. You have to wonder, who approved work like this in the first place.

For content, you often get work that’s judged not to be ‘bad’. But that doesn’t make it automatically good … what’s  acceptable is far short of exceptional.

Another term for that is ‘mediocre’.

Still, one thing’s for sure.

There’s always a better version of your brand story out there. You just have to get your ad agency working to find it.

You could do worse for a New Year’s resolution than ‘brilliance is compulsory’. Share that with your creative people.

You never know what discoveries and improvements lie ahead until you start looking for them.

Why do this?

Because it’s risky to run ordinary stuff … the kind of content you would ignore as a typical online surfer.

So if your agency presents an idea that’s so different it seems risky, you may be on to a good thing.

If nobody has done it before and it’s on strategy that’s promising.

After all, fresh and imaginative thinking is fatal to being ordinary. It’s the way to begin to own your category with a voice that’s engaging.

A CEO we know had a memorable expression about risk.

He said, ‘Risk is a bastard. Without it we could all go home at 5PM’.

More to that …

With better content you might even be able to slip out the door at 4:45.

Share with us. How do you go about lowering your risk of investing precious dollars in marketing and advertising? Leave your comment in the box below. Thanks for reading, Steve Ulin